Prospects or in the minors
The most MLB-ready pitching prospect worth talking about is Cody Bolton. Bolton has returned from a two-year hiatus because of the canceled 2020 minor league season and an injury in 2021. He’s pitched quite well for Triple-A Indianapolis, posting a 2.93 ERA, 3.60 FIP, and 1.32 WHIP. Bolton has a healthy 25.5% strikeout rate and has only let up a single home run in 58.1 innings of work. However, he does have a 13.9% walk rate and an HR/FB ratio of just 1.7%.
Bolton could see some starts in September, given the struggles Thompson has seen and Tyler Beede’s inability to make it through the line-up more than once. His underlying numbers are not pretty. His 1.7% HR/FB ratio likely isn’t sustainable, and his walk rate approaching 14% is worryingly high. Still, he’s gotten the job done, so he at least deserves a look.
One fascinating name to watch is Kyle Nicolas. Nicolas was acquired alongside Thompson in the Jacob Stallings deal. The hard-throwing right-hander has a 3.82 ERA, 4.33 FIP, and 1.26 WHIP. He’s struck out 27.4% of batters faced with an 11.6% walk rate. But Thompson has been a lot better than his numbers suggest.
Nicolas surrendered four home runs and eight earned runs in just two innings on April 23rd, his third start of the year. Outside of that one outing, he has a 2.95 ERA. His HR/9 is just .61 and has a K:BB ratio of 2.4. Overall, it’s been one lousy outing spoiling the rest of his line. That one start makes up for a quarter of the total earned runs he has given up all year despite the innings in that one game making up less than 3% of his total IP.
Nicolas’s Double-A teammate Carmen Mlodzinski may also compete for a rotation spot. A first-round competitive balance pick in 2020, Mlodzinski has a 4.94 ERA and 1.43 WHIP, albeit with a much better 4.01 FIP. Mlodzinski has some solid peripherals, though, striking out 24.4% of batters faced, only allowing home runs at a .99-per-9 rate and allowing 9.1% of batters to reach via free pass. On the plus side, he has a 15.6% line-drive rate, which is a near 10% improvement from 2021, but a 47.6% FB rate, a 16% increase from last year.
One of the other prospects the Pittsburgh Pirates acquired in the Jameson Taillon trade could also be an option in Miguel Yajure. It has been a pretty forgettable year for the right-hander, who has a 6.52 ERA, 4.86 FIP, and 1.55 WHIP for Triple-A Indianapolis. While a 60.7% left on base rate and .331 batting average on balls in play are a sign of some bad luck, he’s still struggled nonetheless. But despite his poor numbers this year, I still wouldn’t rule him out as a possible rotation option.
Another player who has already seen some time in the major leagues is Johan Oviedo. Oviedo was acquired by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the José Quintana trade. Oviedo has mostly pitched out of the bullpen this year, working to the tune of a 3.20 ERA, 4.07 FIP, and 1.30 WHIP in 25.1 innings. On the plus side, he held opponents to just a 6.5% walk rate and has struck them out at a 24.1% rate. Home runs have plagued him in the small sample size with a 1.4 HR/9. The Pirates optioned Oviedo to Triple-A once they acquired him and slotted him into Indianapolis’ rotation. He’s primarily worked in short outings as an opener but has allowed just one earned run on nine K’s, two walks, and five hits in 7.2 innings.
A few final internal options I think are worth at least mentioning are Trey McGough, Omar Cruz, and Max Kranick. McGough and Cruz are the typical soft-tossing lefties who heavily rely on command to get outs. McGough was having a nice season with Triple-A Indianapolis before landing on the injured list early this season. Cruz has struggled at Double-A, but is an intersting name nonetheless. Kranick could have had a chance to secure a rotation spot this year after seeing an uptick in fastball velocity, but underwent Tommy John surgery. He could be a rotation option in the second half of 2023.